Duct tape, and silence.
On the busiest intersection on campus at the busiest time of day, there was no sound from the dozens of students who stood on either side of the Packer Avenue crosswalk walking back and forth to protest the administration’s handling of a sexual harassment claim that allegedly was known and not acted on for years.
At noon, students from across campus participated in a silent protest, holding signs urging accountability for the administration, preaching to believe survivors of abuse and reminding the administration that “diversity” is not a point of advertisement.
“Light needs to be shed on the injustice that happens everyday,” said Kevin Brown, ‘22.
Monica Miller, a professor of religion and Africana studies, filed a lawsuit earlier this month in federal court against Lehigh University. She claims that she was harassed by former professor James Peterson and that the university was aware of the situation as early as 2013, when she was hired, but did not place him on administrative leave until 2017.
Peterson resigned in 2018.
Miller also alleges that she did not receive extra pay for taking on Peterson’s responsibilities while he was under investigation and that Lehigh dismissed her claims of sexual harassment in an effort to portray the school as diverse and accepting.
Miller and Peterson are both black.
“I’m personally disappointed with my school for the way they use diversity and students of color to advertise themselves, but don’t necessarily care about students, staff and faculty of color,” said Aisha Abdulkarimu, ‘20. “With Monica Miller, the way they handled that situation is disgusting…. This is supposed to be somewhere I call home.”
Lehigh administrators were also on hand for the protest.
Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s director of media relations, said that while she could not comment on legal matters, the university supports student expression.
“As an educational institution, we’re a proponent of academic freedom and free speech and affirm student, staff and faculty’s right to express themselves, their views and their thought,” Friedman said.
Students, who carefully directed traffic to ensure the protest did not stop vehicles at the Packer Avenue intersection, appeared to receive reinforcement from enthusiastic honking cars and university staff who attended.
“We’re just here to support the students who are participating,” said Ashley Lemmons, an associate dean of students.